Taryn Simon’s China vs. Rian Dundon’s China

Two very different approaches.

Changsha by Rian Dundon (support his book project on emphas.is)

“I always thought of it as a kind of collaboration,” he said. “I’m here, I’m hanging out, and I don’t really know anything. So I’m going to let people lead me and see what kind of threads I can be led along. And if I give it enough time, those threads will lead to other threads.”

Dundon lived in China for six years, unofficially documenting his experience there. In contrast, Taryn Simon used the process of seeking officially sanctioned representation as a kind of material for her project.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters by Taryn Simon

China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) was solicited in 2009 to select a multi-generational bloodline that would “represent China” for this project … Previously known as the Office of Foreign Propaganda, the SCIO researches, develops, and manages China’s external publicity activities.

This is just a small part of Taryn Simon’s exhibition that’s up at MoMA, Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII.

Antonio Bolfo’s NYPD vs Ramarley Graham’s NYPD

This morning I was taking a second look at this post from the excellent Lens blog. It’s an interview with ICP- and RISD-trained photographer Antonio Bolfo, who became a cop and did some amazing photojournalism of rookies patrolling housing projects in New York City.

From the roof of a housing project, Officer Weadock looks over Mott Haven in the Bronx. October 2009.

I was curious about how the Lens editors might have connected the project, called NYPD Impact, with the Ramarley Graham shooting, which happened two days before the post went up. It turns out there’s no mention of Graham in the post, and I couldn’t find any comments that made that connection.

I did find this link to an anonymous response:

‘This is like a safe haven for them,’ Bolfo tells the Times. ‘Kind of like, collect their thoughts, talk to their loved ones, be people. Shed their police persona and relax a little bit.’ It is a place forbidden to civilians. The intensity of the relief this seclusion brings the officers is inverse to their connection to the community. The more they are merely foreign occupiers, the more they enjoy the view, a view that the very residents of the buildings on which they so symbolically trod are not allowed to enjoy … The many must be excluded so that the few may have the privilege of aesthetic contemplation. After all, isn’t that the way Art works?

It’s a pretty harsh perspective, but I can’t help but wonder whether the audience for NYPD Impact actually includes those who live in the projects. The Lens piece does mention the symbolic aspect of Bolfo’s project:

[The photographs] are at turns raw and tender, scary and sweet, and they humanize people on both sides of the badge — those who wear one and those who face them, night after night.

The photos are definitely amazing (be sure to check out the full set) and certainly humanize the NYPD. But I wonder if they do so to the same degree for residents of the housing projects. I wonder about the timing of the interview, which is about a project from 2008-2009. It’s hard not to see the post as a response to community outrage, although I realize it’s most likely just an unintended coincidence.

Update: I contacted Michael Wilson, the reporter who interviewed Antonio Bolfo, and the timing of the interview was in fact coincidental:

The piece was scheduled to run when it did about a week prior, and it was completed and filed in the system before the shooting, I believe. It’s even possible the piece was edited the day of the shooting. I can see where your questions seem like obvious ones after the fact, but at the time, it just wouldn’t have occurred to anyone here to link the two.

Henry Wessel Jr. on Spark

Seeing the tiny exhibition on LA photography at the Getty reminded me how much I like Henry Wessel Jr. (who had one print in the show). “It can happen any time anywhere. You don’t have to be in front of stuff that’s going to make a good photograph. It’s possible anywhere.”

See also: New Topographics (Redux)

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Thinking about 2012

The 1st of January is as arbitrary as any day to designate a new year. Reading the Wikipedia article on the Gregorian calendar outlines some of the competing times to round out a new year — in March, May, September, December, as well as January — even when limiting oneself to the history of Europe.

But here I am, reflecting on the year ahead. Here is a short list of specific resolutions I’ve set out for myself:

  1. Read more books
  2. Write more blog posts
  3. Take more photos, take a photography course at ICP
  4. Work through my Instapaper queue (currently at 1,219 unread articles!)
  5. Focus on finishing and polishing my existing projects
  6. Favor those projects that help me keep in touch with friends and family

It’s in the interest of this last resolution that I’m setting aside the book I’ve recently started to start reading The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, which was recommended by my friend James. I like the idea of synchronizing my reading with friends for the sake of discussion. In case you might be interested in doing the same, I’ve added my Goodreads profile to my list of networks in the sidebar (heads up to RSS feed subscribers, there’s a sidebar you can’t see from there!).

I suppose I’ve taken some inspiration from Woody Gothrie’s 1942 “New Years Rulin’s”, many of which I also aspire to for the coming year:

  1. Work more and better
  2. Work by a schedule
  3. Wash teeth if any
  4. Shave
  5. Take bath
  6. Eat good — fruit, vegetables, milk
  7. Drink very scant if any
  8. Write a song a day
  9. Wear clean clothes — look good
  10. Shine shoes
  11. Change socks
  12. Change bed clothes often
  13. Read lots of good books
  14. Listen to radio a lot
  15. Learn people better
  16. Keep rancho clean
  17. Don’t get lonesome
  18. Stay glad
  19. Keep hoping machine running
  20. Dream good
  21. Bank all extra money
  22. Save dough
  23. Have company but don’t waste time
  24. Send Mary and kids money
  25. Play and sing good
  26. Dance better
  27. Help win war — beat Fascism
  28. Love Mama
  29. Love Papa
  30. Love Pete
  31. Love everybody
  32. Make up your mind
  33. Wake up and fight

Events for June 5-6, 2010

This weekend is going to be busy! I’m participating in Bushwick Open Studios (with two shows!) and I’m also teaching a session at ITP Camp.

RIP Charles Moorewww.guardian.co.uk

I knew some of his photos without knowing who it was that took them. Here’s a quote in the BBC gallery, linked from the article:

Pictures can and do make a difference. Strong images of historical events do have an impact on society.

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